As Christians, we are called to “rightly divide” the Word of truth. This is hard to do if we won’t even rightly read it.
Stravinsky had the Rite of Spring, but American Christians have the Rite Of Fall. Every year, when the Jewish High Holy Days come around, with them comes inevitable end-times speculation. This September’s “sign in the heavens” is getting an awful lot of play, even in secular media. Despite our Lord’s teaching on the matter, Christians just can’t help themselves. Apocalyptic predictions, sometimes complete with actual date-setting, keep popping up with disturbing frequency.
Many of these embarrassing failures, which have been bringing discredit on the Church for decades, could have been avoided if people had simply read the Scripture passage in question in context and with honesty.
Believe me: I, too, am excited for the return of Christ. Who would not want to see Him? Who would not want to experience the fullness of Resurrection life, or see this old world, where we only see righteousness occasionally, become a world in which righteousness dwells? The return of Christ is our blessed hope. But it’s precisely for that reason, precisely because it is a hope to cherish, that we must not falsify it or pervert it by resorting to sensationalism, sloppiness, or scams. We need to have a love for the truth. Sometimes a dash of humility would serve us well, too.
In the midst of the recent natural disasters here in the US and Canada, one well-known preacher (don’t ask me who) noted how Jesus said the End of Days would be like the days of Noah and Lot — and, he added, Noah’s day was a flood of water and Lot’s day was fire… and we’re seeing floods and fires everywhere right now! He was suggesting to his audience that these hurricanes indicate we’re living in the Days of Noah.
Others say these “new days of Noah” means there will be Nephilim giants walking the Earth once again. Well, who knows? There could be. But will Jesus’ words about the days of Noah really support such a teaching?
What does Jesus actually say about the days of Noah and the days of Lot? You may be surprised to find out. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus said,
But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. (Matt. 24:37-39, NKJV, emphasis added.)
And in Luke’s Gospel, the Lord said,
And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man: They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed. (Luke 17:26-30, NKJV, emphasis added.)
(By the way, where are all the other passages in the Bible about the famous “Days of Noah and Days of Lot?” Actually… there aren’t any!)
Here’s why you can’t take the Days of Noah and Lot passages and use them to assert whatever you like. As you can see from Christ’s own words, the point of these passages is not to make a general commentary on how wicked it will be at the end of the age. He didn’t even say that people will be committing the same sins at the end of the age as they were in Noah’s and Lot’s times.
In fact, Jesus explains exactly what He means in Matthew 24 when He uses the word FOR. What follows after the word “for” is His explanation of how the coming of the Son of Man will be similar to the Days of Noah. It is simply this: when the Day of the Lord comes, people will be living just as carelessly as they were when judgment came in Noah’s day.
The reference to Lot has the same purpose. Jesus joins these two references in order to show us God’s pattern of judgment: first, the removal of the righteous; then, God’s wrath outpoured on the same day. Jesus is only telling us what happens when He comes, not what happens before He comes. He was merely saying that people would be worldly and unconcerned when He came.
That being the case, if we are responsible teachers, we will not use the concept of “the Days of Noah and Lot” to create detailed doctrines about the last days, nor use it to paint every current event as some sort of vague fulfillment of prophecy. Such an approach can cause people to see end-times prophecy as something vague instead of something specific, as it is in many cases, and something which is all about how I see it, rather than how He said it.
Like the “Days of Noah and Lot” concept, which people seem to use however they like, the “sign” of September 23rd, supposedly found in Revelation 12, is lifted out of context in a most alarming way. I wonder if the people pushing this teaching even know that Revelation 12 deals with the War in Heaven and the persecution of believers by the Antichrist following the Abomination of Desolation? (In case you’ve been absorbed with politics this year and haven’t been keeping track, we aren’t quite there yet.)
These prophetic train wrecks are an ongoing problem, so how can we talk about prophecy in a way that honors God’s Word and keeps people from stumbling? I can suggest three things:
(1) First, let’s recover a love for the truth. If you insist that a certain heavenly sign has never happened before, but someone else proves that your “sign” actually happens every 12 years, will you yield or will you continue on? It is a sign of a collapsing society (Romans 1:31) as well as a sign of the end times (2 Timothy 3:3) that people would be implacable, i.e., unable to agree or come to peace about something.
(2) Second, let’s resist sensationalism. Our manner of presenting sober truths could really stand to be, well, a little more sober. We need to break away from breathlessly excited prophecy teaching that comes complete with terrifying bumper music. If this seems unfair, then forgive me, but some of us are old enough to remember more prophecy crazes than we care to. I can remember people speculating that Sadat might rise from death after his assassination to become the Antichrist. More than 35 years later, half of you are reading this and saying, “Who was Sadat?” — and that’s precisely my point!
(3) Finally, let’s take to heart again James’s warning that not many should be teachers. (James 3:1) This truth needs to give us pause. There is no ministry, with the possible exception of prophecy, that has more potential for destruction when misused than the ministry of teaching. However, the Internet now insures that anyone who wants a platform can have one. This is a blessing, but it creates incredible spiritual risks for the Body of Christ. Another danger is the sheer amount of Bible teaching material available online. Using modern computer searching and other functionalities, people can find and save colossal amounts of information without getting at the same time a real, holistic knowledge of Scripture, the wisdom to use it, or the skill to convey it to others. I contrast this with the example of the Apostle Paul, who had a clear conscience because over the span of three years, he had declared to the elders of the Church at Ephesus what he called “the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:25-28)
May the Lord help us to be faithful in handling His Word.